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Vick Gives Back to the Kids

09.08.09

Michael Vick took a page out of the Barack Obama playbook and spoke to his own set of students at Philadelphia charter school today.  And, as far as I can tell from the article, there were no boycotts or protests or screams of socialism.  Which means that a convicted felon received less flack for speaking to students that our own elected president.

Yay, America!

Vick continues on his public penance parade by being an example of what not to do to the youth of America – or at least, in this case, the youth of Philly charter schools.  I just can’t seem to really get behind this whole act, though.  His entire apology and reasoning for running an illegal dogfighting ring feels like he just copied some words from a Rehab for Dummies book and copied and pasted it into his own speech.

The problem with that is, you don’t just accidentally fall into running an entire for-profit, animal abuse enterprise because your buddy takes you to one dog fight.  This isn’t heroin.  This isn’t falling in with the wrong crowd and getting addicted because your buddy pressured you into taking a hit.  Vick had fun.  Vick made money.  Vick wasn’t seeing the dogs as sentient beings that felt pain or deserved our respect.  Was this really a case of Vick being more of a follower than a leader, though?  Hard to say when you’re the one running the whole thing.  Could his friends have done things to the dogs that Vick himself might not have done?  Sure, anything’s possible.

And I’m sure there was some peer pressure from those involved not to shut down something that was profitable – or, worse, simply entertaining – for them.  But this is not just some random guy here with no leadership skills.  Vick is an NFL quarterback – the unequivocal leader on the football field, in charge of piloting a platoon of men in concert down the field with the same collective goal – claims that his transgressions were due to his weaknesses as a leader.  Vick could lead just fine, fine enough to be – at one time – the highest paid player in the NFL.  They’re nice words and I’m sure they ring true to many an immature kid coping with the pressures and evils of adolescence but they sure sound hollow to me.

The reality is that Vick actually gets it half right before he pawns the responsibility off to his friends and following the wrong crowd.

“I didn’t choose to go the right way, which led to 18 months in prison, which was the toughest time of my life,” he said… “[B]ut I had another side to me, and it was a dark side.”

There.  His choice.  His dark side.  I’d rather he’d have stuck to this explanation than that of simply following the actions of some bad people.  It’s not like he got caught betting on dogfighting; he RAN an entire ring.  For years.

“It’s really a test of our character as individuals about being good to those who are less powerful,” he said.

There we go.  I suppose it’s better than nothing and Vick does touch on some things that sound truthful on paper.  At the end of the day, Vick squandered his influence as a role model.  He’s now a cautionary tale that money, fame, popularity and power are all illusions that can’t compete with simply being a good person.

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